In Stranger Things, the Mind Flayer is a pretty big deal, as it is essentially the brain of the Upside Down, or at least some elements of it. For instance, it is responsible for spread the vines beneath Hawkins. It can also control the demo-dogs, as well as Will.

So it is safe to assume it can control all or most of the Upside Down. That being said, where was it in Season 1? All those times the vines where getting burnt, and the Demogorgon getting hurt.

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To the Mind Flayer, Season 1 was the time it was setting up its attack on our dimension. It was opening (Perhaps he was responsible for it) and widening the gate. It was growing Demogorgons, one of which seemingly made its way to Earth early.

So the Mind Flayer was always there, watching, planning. The brain behind it all.

Basing this on the discussion on Beyond Stranger Things.

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